Book Review: Dear Dragon Goes to the Aquarium
Author: Margaret Hillert
Illustrator: Jack Pullan
Publisher: Norwood House Press
[Disclaimer: I was provided an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for my fair review of this book. I was in no way compensated or asked to write a positive review. I was asked to write a minimum number of words and to be honest. Done.]
One thing I did before writing my review of this book was I read it to my nephew who is now in the second grade. I also let him read it to me and when we were finished we talked about the pictures, the words, and whether or not he actually enjoyed the story.
So on a cold, Sunday afternoon me and my nephew sat on the couch together and read the book. He snuggled up to me and we enjoyed the whole 7 minutes together reading about Dear Dragon's trip to the aquarium–alternating who read between the pages. Of course he enjoyed the story and he enjoyed the artwork. I asked him what he didn't like and he said 'the sharks'; I asked, 'why?' And he replied, 'Because they eat people.' His favorite part was the goldfish–but I was unable to get out of him exactly why he liked the goldfish. It could be that he's 7 and just liked the goldfish. Finally, he was able to read it with little effort. So if this book is rated for K-2, it might be too low for those at the high-end of second grade. In some instances, this might be too low for those more advanced first grade readers also. I think each teacher will need to assess if the book is appropriate for a student; although, to be sure, one can't practice too much even with 'easy' books.
Personally, I like the artwork. It depicts happy people at an aquarium enjoying and afternoon or morning looking at various animals that might live at an aquarium including penguins, catfish, sharks, and more. I like very much that there is an adult guiding the children through the aquarium and teaching them about all that they are seeing and I also like the play on words with the various names for fish: cat, clown, gold, and star. This is a fun way to involve the student and help them make predictions and also requires a bit of pre-knowledge in order to make such predictions. Students shouldn't have too much trouble with this exercise. Finally, this book will be helpful in practicing sight/high-frequency words.
At the end of the book there is a section featuring Reading Reinforcement practices for teachers to use in group work or for students to practice on their own with a parent or other. Some of the exercises are phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension–all important things for young and emergent readers to practice. I am glad this section is included because, personally, I love to build curriculum and academic games around literature. Having some ideas built into the book is helpful in that regard.
I have two small complaints about the book that I am, frankly, not sure how to handle. First, on page 22 there is a picture of dolphins and the text says, "Look at these fish." Well, in fact, dolphins are not fish. It bothers me that I am clearly looking at dolphins and the text calls them fish. I think this should be corrected. Second, on page 26, the text says, "Oh, I see. I see gold fish." This one is sketchy because I am not sure if the author is saying, "Oh, look at the gold fish" or if the author is saying, "Oh, look at the goldfish." If students are being asked to look at a particular species of fish then it should be written 'goldfish'; if, on the other hand, students are being asked to look at fish that are gold, then it's fine. So I'm not sure what to do about the second issue because I'm not sure the author's intent (even though the teacher in the story is looking at a school of goldfish. The first issue, though, is clearly wrong: dolphins are not fish.
The story reminds me a little of The Magic School Bus which is a good thing. Overall, I enjoyed the story and the useful text and the play on words. It's a good thinking book and the reading is easy enough (although I think it's rated too low for higher readers who may not enjoy the textual simplicity. I should also note that this story is part of a larger series of stories featuring Dear Dragon–when I checked it was 14 stories.
The following information is excerpted from the Norwood House Press website:
Grade level: K-2
Subject: Dragon, Fiction, Aquarium
Accelerated Reader Reading Level: 1.0
Accelerated Reader Quiz #: 171090
Lexile Level: BR
*You can also read my reviews at Amazon.com, Goodreads, and occasionally I will also post at Shelfari. Visit NetGalley also for more reviews.
I received this email from the publisher concerning my complaint about the word 'fish' being used to describe a dolphin:
Thanks for your feedback on Dear Dragon Goes to the Aquarium. We recognize your comments about dolphins not being fish. Although we were going for simplicity there, we could have chosen better words and will change the word fish when referencing that illustration.
Thanks for your input!
President & Publisher
This is awesome. A publisher actually listening to a reviewer!!